Classroom organization cuts down on so many problems, but sometimes it's easier said than done. Join us for a conversation with Kelly of the Simply Organized teacher, where she shares 5 tips for organizing your classroom - and simple routines to keep it that way all year long.
I am a firm believer in organized classrooms. Organized classrooms lead to a clearer headspace for teachers and less visual stimulation (umm... distraction!) for those kiddos. Here are some of my favorite classroom organization tips and a basic workflow for maintaining organization throughout the school day!
First, I should probably introduce myself though, shouldn't I?!?
I am Kelly! Classroom Organization and Management Coach over at The Simply Organized Teacher. Most of my free time is spent piddling around my house organizing or cleaning something out- I love it! And I love doing it in my classroom as well. I write about best practices for organizing and managing your classroom well.
I also host a podcast called Simply Teach which is how I met Linda! She was gracious enough to record an episode for my podcast and I loved getting to know Linda and chat best practices for classroom management
5 Classroom Organization Tips
I want to share with you 5 quick tips you can implement in your classroom right away to help you get organized.
1. Bins for Everything
One of the first things you can do to get your classroom organized is to store things in bins and baskets. My biggest rule when it comes to organizing is to give everything a home. This is especially true if you're dealing with a smaller classroom, or even a portable classroom similar to these.
By organizing your classroom into baskets and bins, you give everything a home! Then just tack on a label to each bin and now you know where everything goes. This takes away the stress of trying to find where something is or goes because you know where every item's home is!
Taking the time at the beginning of the year to figure out homes for everything will help you out in the long run! And the best part is the bins and baskets don't have to be cute or matchy-matchy! Which leads me to tip number two!
2. Organize Your Cabinets by Themes
I like to say that your cabinets are the heartbeat of your classroom. Prioritize organizing your cabinets, but make sure to do it in an intentional way!
If you can take the time to organize your cabinets then you are saving yourself A LOT of time in the future looking for things or trying to find homes for things.
A few tips for organizing your cabinets:
- Theme cabinets by like things (this means all the art supplies in one cabinet, all the teaching resources in another cabinet, and so on.)
- Use bins and baskets to house things (and be sure to include labels!)
- Your Filing Cabinet is also important to organize (and y'all...just ditch the paper copies of things-okay?!?)
3. Master To Do List
What's that statistic about a teacher makes more decisions in a day than a brain surgeon? Y'all, we are BUSY! And things come into our minds and then slip right on out.
Keep a notepad front and center on your desk (or wherever you return to frequently- for me it was on my desk right under my monitor).
Here you can write down any and every "to do" that comes into mind! Even in the middle of teaching, you can pause for a second, write down whatever it is that popped into your mind, then forget about it!
At the end of the day, you can look back at your to do list and prioritize what needs to be done and what can wait till the next day.
I also like to have another piece of paper near my Master To Do List for a "Things for Next Year" list. Again, this is a way to write down anything that pops into my mind I want to remember for the upcoming school year. Then, at the end of the school year or the beginning of the new school year I can put those things into practice!
4. Use a Lesson Planning Format
I also want to encourage you to create a routine for planning for each week and day. I can't stress this one enough!
I am pretty passionate about the difference between lesson planning and calendaring but essentially lesson planning is digging into the standards, mapping them out, figuring out what vocabulary is needed, how you will modify for each group of students.
Calendaring is deciding (and writing down) what days you will teach what.
My favorite way to plan is by unit with my team. We would go unit by unit using this format right below. We would go deep into the standards and everyone would share their ideas.
Then when it came time to calendaring we would each do that on our own to accommodate our specific schedules and our students.
You can get your copy of the lesson planning guide my team used right here in The Organizer's Bin.
After I wrote out my plans on Thursday during my planning period I made a list for all the resources I needed for the upcoming week. I spent Friday making copies, creating anchor charts, and organizing my lesson plan materials for the following week.
5. Use Your Students
One of the easiest ways to keep your classroom organized is by utilizing your kiddos! My favorite way to do this was through classroom jobs. It is their classroom too so they should be helping to keep it organized!
A few of the classroom jobs were done throughout the day (line leader, electrician, messenger, etc.) but a majority of them were done at the end of the day.
At the end of the school day I left about 10 minutes for students to do their jobs. These were things like organizing the classroom library, erasing the white board, straightening desks, organizing papers that were turned in during the day.
I took this time to also straighten up my workspace. Then, when I came back in after afternoon duty, I had a clean and organized classroom to walk into!
Please don't be that teacher that leaves crayons, scraps of papers, pencils, etc. Their job is to CLEAN, not pick up after your students! 🙂
One of my favorite ways to get the floor clean, especially after a day with lots of cutting and gluing was with "Mystery Trash." I would choose one piece of trash I saw laying on the ground and watch to see which student picked it up. After the classroom was all picked up, I would announce the winner and they would get a trip to the treasure box or an extra classroom dollar.
(And sometimes, if I was busy, I didn't pay that close of attention and I would just pick a student who worked hard that day and reward them.)
Wondering how to create meaningful classroom jobs?
Click the image below to request your free ideas list:
Once you have organization in place, it's just a matter of maintaining. Here are a few tips to help build it into your daily workflow.
- Enter the classroom and turn on lights (all the better if you have lamps versus the overhead lights!)
- Quickly review your lesson plans for the day and ensure you have all materials ready to go (Here is a short video on how I organized my teaching materials for each week.)
- Check email and delete any emails that have been taken care of. (Keep that inbox organized as well!!! Digital clutter is just as stressful!)
During the School Day
- Pick up and put away as you go (and your students, too!). While students are transitioning, put away any materials from the last lesson.
- Keep your Master To Do List nearby and write down any thoughts that come in during the day
- Students should have done most of the picking up, but take 10-15 minutes (set a timer!) to pick up and put away anything out. This creates a clear workspace (literally and mentally) for the afternoon.
- Set a timer for 5-10 minutes to take any notes from the day (either student documentation or journaling, if that's your jam!)
- Review your Master To Do List and prioritize what needs to be done and do it (and if you haven't caught on yet...set a timer!)
- Before walking out of your classroom, clear your desk and push in your chair. This way when you walk in tomorrow morning, you have a clean, organized, and peaceful space to walk into!
If you want more help on getting organized for the start of the new school year, I'd love to have you join me in my new course Kickstart Your School Year- A Teacher's Guide to Organizing and Planning for the New School Year!
This course will not only walk you through how to set up an organized classroom but also help you create management plans, a detailed guide to setting up your classroom, ideas and plans for the first few days and week of school, and A LOT MORE!
Sign up here to be notified when it launches! I'd love to have you!
I am grateful for the work Linda and Teach 4 the Heart is doing to encourage teachers to live fully into our calling as educators. Our jobs are so much more than teaching the standards.
My hope is these tips to organizing your classroom will help you restore balance in your classroom by creating organized spaces that allow you to breathe a little easier!
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